Depression is associated with negativity in TAT narratives: The mediating role of agency

  • Minjoo Joo
  • Sun W. ParkEmail author


Although it is well established that depressed individuals have a tendency to interpret ambiguous stimuli in a negative manner, previous studies have rarely applied narrative analysis to investigate this relation. Our purpose for the present study was to extend the literature by examining whether individuals with depressive symptoms generate negatively distorted narratives when taking the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). We focused on emotional tone and agentic theme in fictional narratives to investigate (1) whether depression is related to the emotional tone of the narrative, and (2) whether agency emerging in narratives mediates the relation between depression and emotional tone. Participants wrote fictional stories in response to three different TAT cards. Two independent sets of three coders coded narratives for emotional tone and agentic theme, respectively. As expected, depression was positively related to the negative emotional tone, and this relation was mediated by the lack of agentic themes in the narratives.


Emotional tone Agency Depression Narrative Thematic Apperception Test 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyKorea UniversitySeoulSouth Korea

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